Mihan's flight delayed by 10 years?
Shishir Arya, TNN Jul 8, 2011, 01.05am IST
Shishir Arya, TNN Jul 8, 2011, 01.05am IST
Source: TOINAGPUR: MADC is expecting some action soon at the special economic zone (SEZ) in Mihan cargo hub, however, some see it as flogging a dead horse.
The Mihan project being developed by MADC is divided into two parts - a SEZ and a cargo hub. The 1,400 hectare hub was planned with the view that Nagpur is in the country's centre, so it can emerge as a nodal point for cargo movement, especially by air. The 2,086 hectare SEZ is also based on this theory.
Voluntary organization Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED) had mooted the idea of making Nagpur an air cargo hub in mid-1990s. It envisaged international flights from all directions, presently overflying Nagpur, landing here. The planes would redistribute cargo and fly back, with the air cargo hub supported by rail and road facilities.
However, it took a decade-and-a-half for the project to take off, and now even those in VED admit that the theory of aircraft overflying Nagpur landing here may no longer hold ground. The concept of a multi-modal cargo hub needs a change, they accept.
Over the last few years, MADC's focus has been on the SEZ and not the cargo hub, from which the name multi-modal international hub airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) was derived.
Devendra Parekh, president VED, says a lot has changed from when the project was conceived in 1997. The original theory could have worked those days, when short distance flights were used. With long-haul flights today, there is no need to land at a middle point like Nagpur.
A team of VED members had then visited Singapore to study a similar set-up, on which Mihan was conceived. Flying to Nagpur would have required less fuel, so more cargo could have been carried on planes, and then flown further in a different aircraft. With long haul flights in place, this may not be needed now, since direct flights are no longer a hassle, said Parekh.
Today, Mihan can be projected as an estate with ample land for industries to set up a unit. With industries facing land acquisition problems, like in Noida and Singur, Mihan still has a chance to come up as a road and rail terminal hub, he added.
However, the work on the rail and road terminal has been stopped by the company which had bagged the contract. It has been over a year since Nagpur Sical Gupta Logistics Limited stopped building the rail and road terminal. It backed out saying there was no assurance of any cargo being generated in Mihan. The company feared it will build the terminal and there would be no cargo to handle, leading to a dead investment.
Padmesh Gupta, a director with the company, said efforts are underway with the help of associations like VED and VIA to revive the project. Meetings have been planned with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan as well as BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
Meanwhile, Deccan 360, which had formally inaugurated its air cargo hub at Nagpur with much pomp two years ago, is yet to start it in a full-fledged manner. Deccan's cargo planes were supposed to land in Nagpur. However, the company continues to transport its cargo through other airlines operating from the city.
After Mihan Airport Limited (MIL), a joint venture of MADC and AAI, was formed, it was planned to redevelop the airport at a cost of Rs 63 crore. MIL is yet to get the money from the government, said a source. Finances have been a major constraint since the airport already has huge accumulated losses, they added.
All hope now rests on the strategic third partner that may be roped in for the project. Last month, Ernst and Young was appointed as consultant for advising the company in scouting for a partner. The new partner is expected to bring in the much needed equity for the venture.
UPS Madan, vice-chairman-cum-managing director of MADC, said after ensuring investors in SEZ start functioning, the focus would now be on the cargo hub. A decision may also be taken on Nagpur Sical Gupta Logistics, which has stopped work.
On roping in the third partner, Madan said no decision has been taken so far. "MADC will first go through the consultant's report and then decide its strategy on the partner. There is no immediate plan to review the entire concept of the cargo hub on the grounds that air cargo may now be outdated," he said.
Vilas Kale, former president of VED who was involved in conceiving Mihan, says that despite the changes in the type of aircraft the idea need not be given up yet. "Not all airlines have shifted to long-haul aircraft. Moreover, VED has also suggested that 50 acres of the SEZ should be de-notified to attract industries which may generate cargo. They need not be export oriented units," he added.